Rudy Gay might just be the most polarizing player that has ever donned a Raptors uniform. If you will allow, a brief history:
- MLSE gave Colangelo the green-light to trade for Gay, and his remaining ~$40mil and 37 FG% (he sold high on Ed Davis, you have to admit) knowing that BC wouldn’t be back but trusting he was doing the right thing for the team’s future
- Gay played well, not memorable, but well for his first 26 games in Toronto; even won a couple games #clutch
- Memphis got to the WCF by beating OKC (who was without Westbrook), but falling to the Spurs because they couldn’t score the ball. Gay took the blame for years of Memphis’ playoff impotence and Hollinger became the moist-towelette hero of stat geeks everywhere
- Colangelo got constructively dismissed (Ujiri was hired to do his job while he was moved into a role where he stacked dollars and did nothing; wasn’t even allowed to speak with his secretary)
- Casey seemingly wasn’t coaching to start the season, with every possession ending in someone (usually Gay = ~30% usage) playing hero-iso-ball
- Gay regressed to career lows in efficiency and popularity, but career highs in media mentions from guys who’ve never shot a basketball at a higher clip themselves than 30% in pick-up games
- Ujiri flipped him for quality role players in Vasquez, Patterson, and Salmons… and Chuck Hayes (wasn’t going to be a total home run)
- Casey flipped a switch and started coaching; like, he knows what he’s doing type coaching, but subtly blames the first part of the season on pandering to Gay…WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER 70% OF POSSESSIONS, CASEY? WHY DIDN’T YOU COACH THOSE PLAYS?
- The Kings beat the Raptors, who were playing their 4th straight road game in 6 nights, with Gay chipping in 24pts (7-17 from the field) 10rebs 3ast 4stl 1blk (serious stat line btw). Gay was casual and aloof about being up for the game, but you could see he really wanted it
- Memphis is currently a game out of the playoffs, but haven’t lived up to their 2013 playoff run. Interestingly, no one is singing the praises of Hollinger this year, especially since they have Prince (averaging 6pts 3rebs this season) for another year at $7.7mil and are currently out of the playoffs
- Raptors are 3rd in the east, and finally hosting Gay and the Kings and looking to add a cushion while the local beat peppers Gay with questions about how he used to be inefficient, and Gay answering that he isn’t anymore while checking the time on his watch
I know it’s not an accurate accounting of Gay’s 10 months in Toronto, but you see where I’m going: he will most likely get booed, even though he played hard the whole time, and never uttered a bad word at the franchise after he was banished, even though lots of people here took shots at him. #class
So after the probable booing, where does that leave us? A game! We will have ourselves a game after a weird five-game break in the schedule. The Raptors handled the Warriors on Sunday in convincing fashion. They stared down a better team, and didn’t fold when things got dicey; that’s convincing in my books. The Kings, on the other hand, are on a two-game win streak, having dispatched the equally bad Pelicans and Bucks.
I’m skipping match-ups, since other than Cousins, the Raptors should own. The Kings have no depth, and what players they do have…
suck aren’t up to par…I mean, Quincy Acy averages 15 minutes a game on this team.
Keys to the game
- The Raptors are coming off five-days of no intensity. Your guess is as good as mine as how they will respond from the tip, but it’s crucial that they come out focused and ready to be gassed sooner than they normally would. The Kings play a fairly quick pace (96.8, tied-13th) which concerns me when it comes to Vasquez who doesn’t have any, but the team will just need to deal, which they probably will.
- Cousins has pulled down 39 rebounds in the last 3 games, and is probably licking his lips at the prospect of pulling down 20 just tonight. Of the few things the Raptors have done a poor job of lately, rebounding is right at the top of the list. The Kings starting front court does a great job of hitting the glass, and the Raptors need to box out and put a body on everyone they can.
- You know what I’d do if I were playing the Raptors (part of my game-plan anyhow)? I’d go right at Jonas and Amir, and make them defend the hell out of the paint. I’d run pick-n-rolls, send Thomas tearing to the rack, give Gay the ball in the high-post, but most importantly, I’d throw the ball down into Cousins every chance I got and let him back whoever is on his hip down until they foul or he hits a hook shot.
- The Thomas/Cousins pick-n-roll is very good; Thomas is sick off the bounce, and Cousins can shoot, or roll to the rim like a beast. It’s a nice ace to have in your back pocket if the Raptors are able to slow the pace down.
You see where I’m going, don’t you? The Raptors need to control Cousins. Do that, and this game is a lock. Given how the Raptors have been playing of late, we’ll see some Jonas in the 1st quarter, where he plays well, and makes some things happen, then slowly get ground into the court, and ultimately get replaced by a combination of Patterson and Hayes for the remainder of the game. Whomsoever is covering the quick reaction will give him a C, and all people will do is yell and scream how the effort in the 1st quarter should have bumped him to a B+, and how we’re so hard on him even though he played poorly in the 2nd quarter and was stuck on the bench in the 2nd half….sorry, I got carried away.
The degenerates have the Raptors as 6.5 point favourites with an over/under of 206. Feels like the Raptors will come out a bit sluggish, but pull up their laces in the 2nd quarter, and put the game away early in the 4th; Raptors by 8 on a night where Gay wants to show how efficiently he can shoot inefficient shots in the hopes of getting the last laugh in front of his old home crowd.
Note: sorry for the premature publish of the article. I posted it by accident and didn’t realize until my email blew up with many warnings (thanks for the heads up).